In Defense of Fifty Shades of Grey

I have a (dirty little) secret. 

If you don’t know me very well, then it may surprise you to know that I am a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey. And I, unlike some people that are undoubtedly out there, am not afraid to admit it. While I can definitely see some of the factors that give it a bad reputation, they are, like many other issues, defendable. So here are some debunked, controversial reasons why the Fifty Shades of Grey fandom isn’t really all that bad.

Origin

A big problem people have with the fandom is likely to do with the fact that the books are self-published, poorly edited, and straight off author E.L James’s fanfiction.net page. With help from The Writers’ Coffee Shop, a small independent, Australian publisher, E.L James was able to share the internet's favorite erotica and turn it into a worldwide phenomenon.

She has become one of the most widely-known authors all by taking her small success and booming it into practically its own industry. So why all the hate?

Formally known as Erika Mitchell, she went from being a middle-aged mom and wife from London. to being named one of TIME magazine’s "The World's 100 Most Influential People” practically overnight. It’s all quite an impressive achievement for someone who made the concept of “mommy porn” so popular.

Plot

Okay, so by now we all know what Fifty Shades of Grey is about. However, it is, at its core, a fictional romance novel. Take away the awkwardly written sex scenes that still make people shyly glance away and you’ve got the typical “boy meets girl” storyline. Remove the Red Room of Pain and you still have the young, naive woman exposed to a world she may not have known otherwise due to Mr. Grey’s business prosperities and wealth. So should the BDSM aspect, however poorly it may or may not be written, be fully responsible for the frequent and high negativity? 

At no point does the book instruct the reader on the how-to’s of the BDSM lifestyle. The story is told through the eyes Anastasia Steele, who is an observer and learner herself. Having no idea what she’s getting into, she reports on what she feels, not what she knows, which based on her continual innocence and commentary, really isn’t much.

Success

Together, the three books have sold over 100 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 52 languages. The first film grossed over $570 million dollars and excitement for the next two is at an all-time high. This makes Fifty Shades of Grey, with its inevitable whopping success, a fandom that we love to hate. Maybe it is due to making such a taboo subject mainstream. Or maybe it’s due to becoming a headliner of illicit literature. Either way, it has lead to an unstoppable number of people having a not-so-little secret.

Merchandise

Remember, Fifty Shades of Grey is not just one book - it’s three! Apart from its film adaptations, it’s also launched a series of other material such as wine, sex toys, clothing, and a whole lot of other items marketed with the Fifty Shades of Grey brand. And yes, it can all be a little much and over-the-top, but marketing is clearly an important and (by the looks of it) profitable part of the ordeal. Fans are no stranger to satisfaction (pun really not intended). 

Whether the brand attracts or annoys you, you’ve reacted to it, bringing it all full circle. As much as you may not like it, if you’ve read up to this point, you’ve done it again.   

Let’s be realistic. Fifty Shades of Grey’s place on the banned book list will likely be a permanent one and we are never going to study it as intensely (or at all) as we would a Dickens or Steinbeck novel. And that is completely okay.

Take it for what it is. A truly fictional yet overhyped love story that is, for one reason or another, immensely popular. 

If you’re curious, take a peek. Buy a ticket to see Fifty Shades Darker, and not sneak into it after purchasing one for The Lego Batman Movie (no disrespect to Lego or Batman). If you couldn’t care less, don’t judge those that do. It’s not a crime to be curious about a trend. It’s even less worrisome to actually enjoy it.

Sources: 1, 2